‘Get Hard’ Controversy May Help Kevin Hart-Will Ferrell Prison Comedy at Box Office

The R-rated movie will face DreamWorks Animation’s family film “Home” in a close weekend race

Last Updated: March 25, 2015 @ 2:44 PM

With red-hot Kevin Hart and Will Ferrell starring in “Get Hard,” the R-rated prison comedy didn’t really need any extra attention to raise awareness ahead of its Friday box-office debut.

But it got it, mainly fueled by complaints and outrage from critics over its raunchy humor, which started with its double-entendre title. The controversy continued with accusations that it reinforces negative African-American stereotypes and is homophobic.

“Get Hard” offers a case study in the “any publicity is good publicity” theory, and right now it seems on the money — about $40 million to be specific. That’s what analysts are projecting, though distributors Warner Bros. and New Line say $35 million is more likely. That will be enough to knock off last week’s No. 1 movie “Insurgent” and the weekend’s other wide opener “Home,” they say. DreamWorks Animation’s release – the restructuring studio’s only one of the year – is projected to debut between $30 million and $35 million.

Radius/TWC is rolling out the low-budget, well-reviewed teen horror film “It Follows” in roughly 1,200 theaters. The wide rollout is a departure for Radius, which typically handles specialty fare, but is betting on box office over video on demand after a strong specialty debut. It looks to be on course for around $5 million. Also debuting is “Serena,” a drama starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper that Magnolia Picture is rolling out on a modest 58 screens.

As for “Get Hard,” the controversy will ultimately help according to Exhibitor Relations senior analyst Jeff Bock.

“Hart, Ferrell and Warner Bros. know what they’re doing with R-rated comedies and they knew what they were doing when they made this movie. There shouldn’t be any boundaries on comedy or R-rated movies, and they know it’s great for the movie.”

The teaming of the two stars matters more, Bock said.

“That’s the reason it got a green light, and it will be the reason there will be a sequel announced Monday if it does over $40 million,” he said. The comic actors have their own constituencies, and the combination of Hart’s hip young urban fans and Ferrell’s old school crowd should be potent. Hart was complemented nicely by Ice Cube and his slightly older fan base and that boosted Universal’s breakout 2014 comedy “Ride Along.”

At the box office, Hart is hot and Ferrell is due. Hart’s last four wide releases have on average opened to more than $25 million and grossed more $78 million domestically. His last was “The Wedding Ringer,” which grossed an OK $64 million for Screen Gems in January. But the more relevant comparison looks to be “Ride Along,” which had a similarly simple concept and featured Hart and Ice Cube, and debuted to $41 million in January 2014 on its way to $135 million domestically.

Ferrell hasn’t been on screen since December 2013, when “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” opened to $26 million on its way to $126 million domestically. Misfires “The Campaign” and “Casa De Mi Padre” preceded that, so he could use another hit.

There are several positive signs for “Get Hard.” There hasn’t been an R-rated comedy in the market since Hart’s “The Wedding Ringer” opened to $20.6 million January. Hart is prolific on social media and “Get Hard” has double the Twitter mentions of “The Wedding Ringer” and it has a slight edge over “Home” in advance sales at Fandango.

The biggest negative for the $40 million comedy directed by Etan Cohen would seem to be a potentially short shelf life, with the blockbuster “Furious 7” set to open next week.

HOME

The PG-rated “Home” will be DreamWorks Animation’s only movie release this year, after the studio cut back its slate as part of a massive restructuring announced in January and pushed “Kung Fu Panda 3” to next year.

Rihanna, Jim Parsons, Jennifer Lopez and Steve Martin lend their voices to the 3D family film about friendly but bumbling purple aliens who give Earth a try. It is the only animated film in the market and it will play in a whopping 3,600-plus theaters.

The critics aren’t thrilled and it’s at 45 percent positive on Rotten Tomatoes, but if audiences respond the way DWA and distributor Fox are hoping and the word of mouth is positive, it could be around for awhile.

serenaWith two of Hollywood’s hottest teamed as they were in “Silver Linings Playbook” and “American Hustle,” you’d expect “Serena” to be getting a lot more attention and rate more than the limited opening it will receive from Mark Cuban’s Magnolia Pictures this weekend.

But 18 months of post production work resulted in a nearly two-year delay between its completion in 2012, and its release deflated anticipation. Since then, crummy reviews and a weak U.K. opening haven’t helped the R-rated Depression era drama directed by Susanne Bier (“In a Better World). It’s been available on VOD and iTunes since February and has barely made a ripple.

It’s at a dismal 24 percent positive on Rotten Tomatoes and its social media profile is meager, so no one’s expecting much from “Serena,” which was financed by Cuban’s 2929 Entertainment and Studiocanal to the tune of $25 million.